Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I'm on the cover...I'm on the cover...I'M ON THE COVER!

Just for the heck of it tonight, after work and checking my email at home, I went over to Interweave Press' website to see if they had the new issue information on the site yet. It took me a minute to process what I was seeing - that the image on the COVER of the new issue was MY necklace! I started screaming, which terrified my husband, who was upstairs grinding venison into homemade sausage. He came running downstairs with venison-covered bloody hands and when he saw the cover, he started screaming, too! I still can't believe it - I'M A COVER GIRL!

The first person I called was Mary Jane. I was still screaming and hyperventilating, and I had to grab a glass of white wine to calm myself down, and Tom said to me, "Maybe you shouldn't call Mary Jane until after you've calmed down." I said, "Yeah, you're probably right," and then, after a few seconds of sheer giddiness, I said, "Nah, you're wrong, I'm calling her RIGHT NOW!" So, after I finished giggling down the phone to her, I went back upstairs to finish cooking dinner and just giggled some more. "I'm on the cover. Hee hee. Did I mention I was on the cover?"

It's one of those things. You don't want to be so arrogant as to think that YOUR work would look fabulous on the cover of a magazine, even when secretly, you really believe in it and in yourself. And then something like this comes along and you think, "Okay, no more secrets! My work is good enough for Interweave Press to stick smack dab on the cover of a leading beading publication!" Woa!

And to think that yesterday I was completely down in the dumps for getting my work rejected by a major museum gift shop down in NYC. Bah! Who needs 'em? In a few years, they'll be begging me!

I think this means I have to start applying to more fine craft shows. I think I may have something here...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New Finished Work!

These are some of the newly finished pieces I had for sale at the Guy Brewster Hughes Gallery in Lake Placid on Friday. They are made from my handmade glass beads and some of the yummy gemstone beads I've been hoarding for the last, oh, ten years or so...! These will all be for sale on VanBeads.com very, very soon, but for now, here's a little sneak peek...

This piece, tentatively called "Surf 'n' Turf", is made from six of my handmade beads and a strand of genuine Peruvian opal rondelles. The beads were made with a base of ivory glass over which I rolled some silver foil, and then layered some aqua and coral glass. The whole piece is very earthy and organic but very artsy at the same time. This is going to be a hard one to part with, but I want it to find a good home.

This is a piece made with another set of favorite beads called Tiger Beads. I think these were some of the very first beads I made with my kiln - because they were so big and chunky, they never survived the cooling process in the vermiculite. I was particularly upset by the loss of a great, big sculptured focal I made in this style. But now I've got the kiln, I don't lose any to heat cracks. Anyway, about the necklace - to accent the Tyger Beads, I've strung them with some very dark rutilated quartz. There are so many inclusions in these beads, they almost look black until you take a closer look at them. I alternated them with some thick onyx washers and silver spacers. The beads themselves are made from ivory, coral and intense black glass that has been stretched and wound and stretched and wound to give me those lovely ink-spot patterns, and then wound with a thick layer of clear to magnify the patterns underneath. Very cool with a t-shirt and jeans!

Okay, another piece that I love. I made these beads by forming a thick cylinder with transparent colored glass, and then wound clear glass around the ends but didn't melt it in. (Hmmm, that gives me an idea - what would have happened if I HAD melted it in?) Anyway, they were just lolling about on my work table for the longest time, until I saw these fun, funky faceted Czech glass beads from the Czechs in the Mail bead club, and then I knew I had a design! Eureka! I love this piece because it's colorful, funky and refined all at the same time. I tried the piece on with a brightly colored t-shirt, and I just loved it.

This piece is made from two of my favorite things - handmade glass beads and vintage German glass beads! Woo-hoo! I swear, to anyone who is looking at this piece, the funky cubes in shades of yellow and green and coral really are glass. They've been etched from here to the moon and back, but they really are glass. When I had displayed this at a shop years ago, more than one customer came in, believing themselves to be an "authority" on polymer clay, and telling me, the one who made the beads, in no uncertain terms that those were most certainly polymer clay and not glass. Well, surprise, folks, they really are glass. And I've got a chipped one somewhere in my bead box to prove it! Hehehe... I don't know where this one came from, but I had a ball making the square boxy-shaped beads. (I think this was the first set I made while testing out various work chairs in my studio.)

And speaking of the moon... I got an idea to start a series of hollow glass beads named after the planets. This is the first one, called "Jupiter". It is made from that yummy transluscent yellow glass I got as a promotion from Frantz Art Glass one summer when I was stocking up, and at first, I thought, this is the ugliest color of glass rod I have ever seen. What the hell am I going to DO with it?! But, sure enough, one day last spring, when I was torching at Mary Jane's house, I decided to make my warm up beads with a rod of it, and lo and behold, "Jupiter" was born! It is a hollow bead with coral tips, and wound with a thin stripe of opaque brown. It, too, slept on my work table until last weekend, I was lying in bed one morning trying to wake up when the idea hit me. (There's not much that can get me out of bed before 6:00 a.m., but a good design idea will do it every time!) The wireworking part was a little trickier, trying to get the two large silver beads to balance on the eyepin that holds the lampwork bead, but I think I finally got it. When worn, it hangs very nicely and complements almost any outfit. Next up: Pluto, created after I heard that a panel of international scientists have stripped Pluto of it's title of planet!

Whew, I think that's it for now. Did lots and lots and lots of photographing and photoshopping today. I need to take a vacation so I can get some work done! Peace, everyone!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Some days, I love the freelance thing, it makes me feel like I'm my own boss (even if I am working for someone else), and I love the flexibility, and I love being able to work at home in the basement, listening to NPR and hanging with the dog. But some weeks, when I'm trying to line up work and get contracts and committments, I want to tear my hair out and scream. That's what's been going on the last few weeks - lots of hair-tearing and screaming.

Well, I don't have any new photos to post yet, but I should have a few fairly soon.

Last Sunday, I went up to the Hannukah Bazaar at temple. I was really excited to be back there for my third year in a row, and it was my best year ever for the event. I really like seeing everybody from temple and meeting new people, and Lynn brought Isaac and I sort of baby sat while she took Caroline to religious school and then over to Nutcracker rehearsal. And yesterday, I did my first-ever show at the Guy Brewster Hughes Gallery on Main Street in the Lake Placid Public Library. Louise, the gallery manager, had warned me that some days when they hold these events, no one has any sales at all. I assured her it was all in the marketing of the event. If you don't let people know you're having the event, you won't have any sales! Well, nothing much happened in the morning, until about noon. I started to get hungry, so I told Louise and her daughter Mary Anne that I was going to walk down to Soulshine Bagel and get some lunch. The day after Thanksgiving, Main Street was packed, and I stood in line for a long time. A really long time. Until I saw Mary Anne appear at the door in a total panic, and she said, "Jen, you've got to come back now, there's someone who wants to buy your jewelry!" So, I went running back up the street to the library, thinking, this was probably only a $35 sale or something, but I wanted to make sure I didn't lose it. So, I get in there, look over at the table full of the ready-to-wear line, and see that lots of it is GONE! Then this woman comes over and plunks down 4 necklaces, one of which was a $185 piece made with antique Ethiopian Tribal Silver! She bought nearly $400 worth of my jewelry like it was NOTHING! Which leads to my latest thoughts about art and life and jewelry and pricing...

I've said this before on other forums, and I'll say it again. Craft artists or fine artists should not be targeting the same market that shops at Wal-Mart. The thing that irritates me the most is seeing artists who make beautiful work and underprice it because they are afraid to charge for their time. Time is everything. Time is money. It has taken me YEARS to perfect my technique and develop my style, and I'll be damned if I'm just gonna give it away. I wish other artists felt that way as well, because when they are afraid to charge for their time, they are doing those of use who do feel our time is valuable immeasurable harm. Firstly, they are giving consumers the idea that what we do is not valuable. My father has the same problem - when someone else out there can set up your computer for less than he charges, people get a diminished sense of value. Secondly, they are selling themselves short as well, while at the same time making it harder for artists like me who are trying to make a decent, honest living from our art to make a decent, honest living. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, "But why is it so much?" I usually answer quite bluntly that while many artists do not charge for their time, I do, because my time is valuable to me. The bottom line, lesson learned from my customer yesterday who purchased all that great jewelry without blinking: if they complain about your prices, they aren't your market. And if your market is the luxury market, great! Welcome aboard! Because sometimes I forget, living up here in an area where a "good" salary is minimum wage, that there are whole cities out there, full of people who still drive SUVs despite the price of gas and who do have surplus cash to spend on goods and services like mine.

There. I'll get off my soap box now. But I would love to hear from anyone who has encountered anything similar or even anyone who disagrees with me. This is just one of my pet peeves, and lately, it's coming to the fore. It just seems that more and more people are searching for "bargains" - take the crazy people who lined up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday outside of department stores to buy video games and leather handbags. But what they're missing out on is a sense of worth, and a sense of contributing to something bigger.

Okay, that's it. Now I've got to go upstairs and make some tomato soup for dinner.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Remnants of Timbuktu

Finished the necklace last night, after nearly two years! I guess it was about time! Unfortunately, all of the photos of the full piece were terribly and fuzzy, so I'll have to re-photograph it properly tomorrow morning when the light is better.

This piece is a 20" long necklace, created from square stitched components that are linked together with silver jump rings. Each piece is embellished with brick stitch triangles, grey AB druks, and colored pressed glass pyramids. The idea for the design came from one of my favorite old books on ancient jewelry. When I had originally sketched the design, I had noted "ancient English links" on the page, but when I looked again at the photo a few months ago before embarking on the finishing of the piece, I was astonished to see that the components pictured in the book were actually of Tuareg origin, noted to be found in Timbuktu! After that, I finished creating the components and the necklace with an entirely different vision in mind. I may have a few more embellishments to add, now that I know the true origin of the original pieces.

I did some research on Timbuktu. It's fascinating. The city of Timbuktu is located in the present day country of Mali, in Africa, and has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. In 1990, it was listed as an UNESCO world heritage site in danger because of desert sands. Until 1591, it was a major African city and had acquired vast wealth due to the flourishing trade in salt, slaves, gold, ivory and other treasures that were sought by the Europeans. While the city has a rich history of war and conquerers, today, most of its residents live in poverty. The name Timbuktu has become so ingrained in the collective unconscious that a recent poll of young Britons revealed that over 60% of those surveyed believed Timbuktu to be a "mythical place", and 34% did not believe that the city even existed!

This is another design that I am submitting to Interweave Press for their consideration, and I will also be submitting it to various bead shows to teach.

Now, on another, somewhat sadder note, I received and read the last installment in the Adrian Mole series today. Sue Townsend has finished her writings on the life of Adrian Mole with "Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction". Whether you are for the war in Iraq or against it, this book will move you. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say that I damn near cried more than once while reading it, and this is going to become one of those books that I will re-read for the next year or two. Or three. Adrian and his family have all grown up or grown older. He attends his class reunion. His best friend Nigel has gone blind. And his sister Rosie is away studying nanobiology at University. While I finished the book in a little under five hours (my husband is going to really tease me about that!), this is one to take with me when I take a hot bath tonight and mull over its pages. I feel like the writer of the series, when your characters want to continue to live, yet you know that once you stop writing, the story is over. I can only hope that somewhere, in the imagination of Sue Townsend's many fans, that Adrian Mole and his family will continue to live.

With that in mind, I'd better wrap this up and get back upstairs to cooking dinner. Cooking has become one of the great loves of my life since I became a vegetarian. Tonight's dinner, made especially for Tom when he comes back from spending 14 hours out in 35 degrees: roasted eggplant and garlic soup; soft lentils with carmelized onions and tomatoes; kasha; and whole grain bread. I should open a restaurant!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Middle of the Week Blues...

Well, technically it's after the middle of the week, but it feels like the middle of the week for me. I feel as if I've been running a marathon all week. Worked for the Historical Society on Monday, spent Tuesday working at Ann's house, then had to make an emergency trip to the vet at 9:00 p.m. because Moose ate a mouthful of glass shards from the dish of maple-roasted nuts he pulled off the counter while we were having dinner at my in-laws'. Worked half the day for the Historical Society yesterday, then worked the other half at the Village, trying to finish their records management project. Came home, cooked dinner, and tried to get some beading done. Almost done with another necklace, I'm working on what may be the last component now. (Unless I decide that it needs one or two more to lengthen it.) Still no word on the X Marks the Spot Bracelet, but I did manage to submit five projects to BeadFest for their various shows around the country. As I develop more projects, I'll submit those, too.

Feeling completely unorganized this week. Have to sit down and make some lists: supplies that I am running out of, beads I need for projects, and I somehow have to get in touch with Designer's Findings!

Made some changes to the website the other night, but they were sort of accidental. I was trying to upload the newly finished Sounds of the Northway website on my account, but kept putting the files in the wrong folder, so I had to keep re-sending MY website! Finally got it all worked out around 11:30 p.m. Tom and I were so exhausted, we took Moose up to bed and didn't open our eyes until 7 the next morning. Yikes.

Okay, here's one of my favorite pieces and the history behind it. (She's also for sale at VanBeads.com!)

Lady in the Lake, completed August of 2006

There is a story in Lake Placid about Mabel Douglas, the famed educator and founder of Douglas College of Rutgers University. For years, Mabel had a camp on Placid Lake. One day in the late fall of 1933, Mabel's daughter went to town to run errands, and Mabel took her St. Lawrence skiff (boat) out for a row on the lake. What happened next has never been clear, but several hours later, her overturned skiff was spotted and towed back to the boathouse on the lake. Her daughter identified it as belonging to Mabel, but Mabel was never found. Fast forward thirty years to a few divers who were looking for logs at the bottom of Placid Lake near Pulpit Rock, where the water in the lake is upwards of 150 feet deep. One of the divers, walking along the lake bottom, thinks he spots a clothing-shop mannequin, and reaches over to pick up its arm. It's apparent right away that it was not a mannequin. Due to the chemistry of the lake bottom and the relatively constant temperature of the water, the body had never decomposed, and the outer two inches or so had turned into a kind of soap. Unfortunately, as the body was brought to the surface, the movement of the water across the face caused the face to dissolve, so identification was difficult. However, it was determined that this was indeed Mabel Douglas, who had disappeared on the lake thirty years prior. At this time, an investigation was opened by the New York State Troopers. A witness came forward and said that he had seen Mabel rowing that afternoon from a distance, and that he had also seen her throw something into the water and then dive in after it. (She was found with a rope tied around her neck that was attached to an anchor.) However, the case was filed as "unsolved". It was never determined if foul play was involved, or if Mabel simply took her own life.

I read about the story several years ago, and seeing this ceramic face by Diane Briglieb amongst my bead collection, I knew she was The Lady in the Lake. I created the piece to honor the memory of Mabel Douglas who was a pioneer in women's education, and who earned countless awards and honors for her work in the field of education.

The Lady in the Lake was created with a combination of techniques. First, the ceramic face was glued to a piece of Lacy's Stiff Stuff, and allowed to dry. Then, I beaded a bezel around her using size 11 Delica beads. I then worked around the face with bead embroidery, embellishing here and there, using a variety of Japanese seed beads and pressed glass beads. After that was finished, I stitched on a backing of suede-like fabric in a coordinating color. After the main piece was finished, I created a beaded rope using spiral rope stitch and embellishing the rope with a huge variety of freshwater perals, seed beads, and pressed glass leaves and flowers. After I attached the rope, I went back and added short fringes to the top and bottom of the piece. All said and done, she took me more than 40 hours to complete. I entered her in the Lake Placid Center for the Arts Annual Juried Adirondack Art Show, but she was not selected. (Oh, well, can't win 'em all!)

The Lady in the Lake is for sale on my website. While I am very attached to her, I would like to see her go to a good home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Well, I can see I've got to get better about posting on this blog!

Ha! But it's been a busy week or two since I started this blog. I've had to get the museum ready for painting and to be winterized, line up a few jobs for the winter, and finish my instructions for Beadwork. And in between all that, I've been stitching up new ideas like mad! I love the creative energy that I feel lately when I sit down to work. Last night, we watched "Fight Club" while I tried to teach myself some new wire crochet techniques. Eventually, I gave up and just kept working on the cabs for the necklace. I may re-think that whole design until I get the wire crochet thing down better. In the meantime, there's always good old tubular Ndebele or peyote stitch with a wire through it, right?

Here is the photo of the second piece that Interweave is holding for consideration. I hope they publish it!

So, there's the jewelry part of the blog.

The life part is a little more (less?) interesting. Jill at the Adirondack Scenic Railroad suckered me into saying I would be the face-painter at their Halloween Train last Friday night. I was all set with my Harry Potter costume and everything, but by the time I was ready to head back into Lake Placid, the weather had just turned nasty. I got as far as Whiteface Mountain before I realized that between the snow, sleet and freezing rain, I was driving on ice-covered roads, and I was not anxious to make my way through Wilmington Notch on bald tires. I called Tom and told him I was turning around and coming home. "Good," he said. Instead, I spent the evening with him watching "Yellowbeard" and "Mars Attacks!" and re-organizing my jewelry studio with my brandy-new plastic cabinets! (Petroleum-based products that will last for the next 1,000 years in a landfill, I know, but they were cheap and convenient. >SIGH<)

More pics to come with new pieces!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wow. My very own blog. Wow.

This is gonna be a little weird, at first, I think, so I'm just gonna jump right in and get to it!

Hello, World! This is MY BLOG!

So, where am I right now? Right now, I am sitting in my office at the Lake Placid North Elba Historical Society (my current day job), eating my lunch, and brainstorming for ideas that will boost my business so that I don't have to worry about having a day job. I've been thinking about starting a blog for quite a while, and I guess today is the day to do it.

Last week, I received my copy of Beadwork Magazine's 10th Anniversary "Best of Beadwork", and there was one of my designs, the "Victorian Infinity Necklace". Wow. I was just stunned to see my work alongside artists like Susan Lenart Kazmer and Margo Field. And it was the very first piece I ever sent to Beadwork Magazine. Since that first piece was published in 2005, I also had a second piece published in August of that year, and then beadwork just sent off contracts for a third piece. I've got another bracelet being held at their office while I whip up another one with some major design changes, and then I've got three more designs in the works that I will eventually submit to them. It's like, I get home and I just have to bead, bead, bead! It's not a bad thing, though. The ideas are terrible - they just come to me, usually at the most inconvenient time. Like thirty seconds before I fall asleep, or in that sleep-wake stage right before the alarm goes off every morning at 5:30. And then yesterday I got my latest order from Fire Mountain Gems with loads of new stuff for a NEW idea for a bracelet and earring set that I am just chomping at the bit to work up!

It's the ideas that really grab me. Sometimes I think that's my favorite part of the whole process. Sitting in a hot, scented bath with my sketchbook and a few books for light reading is usually when I get most of my best ideas.

It was cold this morning as I drove into Lake Placid. I mean, really cold. Winter cold. There was this huge storm on top of Whiteface Mountain as I drove through Wilmington, and then as I got into Lake Placid there was snow coming down. It was forty-two degrees outside, and it's been cloudy all day. But the best thing about the snow and the cold is our new kerosene monitor heater that Tom installed in the garage workshop with my torch! Yippee! No more torching in fourteen layers of clothing! No more hunching around the flame trying to keep my fingers from freezing stiff! We've finally got a reliable source of heat that doesn't create fumes and make my chest tighten up! Tonight, I am going to go home, eat some dinner, and finish cleaning my worktable in anticipation of a long, warm torching session on Monday. (In between everything else I need to do.)

I am also working on a few more embroidered collars to put into a new brochure to do a second mailing to fine craft galleries and shops. I don't think I made the impact I wanted to with my first brochure, so I am approaching the layout from a different angle. Designing brochures is fun, but I always second guess myself. I can be totally happy with the design when I send it to the publisher, but as soon as I get the printed product, I start to think, "Oh, I shouldn't have done it that way," and "Rats, I should have put different text under that photo." And in all likelihood, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the brochure at all.

The next juried art show at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts is going to be an elemental theme. You have to create a piece that embodies Earth, Fire, Water and/orAir, and the element you choose to portray needs to be obvious. I've got a few ideas swimming around, but nothing concrete yet. I've got to get a few of these other ideas out of the way before I can focus on that one, I think.

Next shows to work up pieces for are Beadwork's Beaded Bags juried show and Bead Dreams. I remember when Ruby came to my house for our last consult through the Northern Adirondack Trading Cooperative, I showed her the copies of the Bead Dreams special issues I have and told her about the competition. She said to me, "And why aren't there any of your pieces in here?" And truthfully, none of my pieces were in there because I never thought my stuff was good enough to enter. This year, though, I'm thinking differently.